Local authorities in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district stand accused of selling off 370 hectares of protected land to different private buyers who have erupted into a dispute over who rightfully owns the area.
Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization, said he learned about the case after a woman, Siv Pov, filed a complaint to his organisation several weeks ago claiming she bought the land in 2012 only to see it resold to a different investor named Sok Kheng in 2013.
The complaint accused authorities from the district’s Trasal commune of paying local families to clear the land in preparation for it to be sold to unnamed Chinese businessmen.
Hean said selling state land was “absolutely illegal” and that he would appeal to the provincial and potentially national authorities to have the land put back under conservation.
But Trasal commune council head Dul Sokhom said the land was sold legally to Sok Kheng since the villagers had certificates for it.
“Some land belongs to the state and some to the villagers, who obtained titles officially,” he said.